NFL 2018: Which division is the best in the league? We rank all eight of them

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/nwe" data-ylk="slk:New England Patriots">New England Patriots</a>’ <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24017/" data-ylk="slk:Rob Gronkowski">Rob Gronkowski</a> (87) runs away from <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/nyj" data-ylk="slk:New York Jets">New York Jets</a>’ <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/30152/" data-ylk="slk:Marcus Maye">Marcus Maye</a> (26) for a touchdown last season. (AP)
New England PatriotsRob Gronkowski (87) runs away from New York JetsMarcus Maye (26) for a touchdown last season. (AP)

While there’s an incorrect assumption by New England Patriots haters that their dynasty has been fueled by being in a division with three terrible organizations, which division you’re in does matter.

Not all eight divisions are equal. The Patriots do have an easier road to the playoffs than, say, the Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons. That much is undeniable.

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Which division provides the toughest path for its members to make the playoffs this season? And which division is the easiest (spoiler: it’s the AFC East)? We rank all eight divisions, from easiest to toughest.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

Not even the Patriots can save this division from being the worst in the NFL. The Patriots will be good, but the Dolphins, Jets and Bills might all be among the worst teams in the NFL. The Patriots’ dynasty is amazing, and it’s also amazing the rest of the division rarely challenges them.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

The Steelers are good, but the only sure thing. The Ravens will be competitive because they usually are, and you’d like to think the Bengals and Browns will be better too. But there’s no great bet here to grab a wild-card spot, unless you like the Ravens.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

If the 49ers take a big step up, this division will rank even higher. Everyone wants to see what the Rams do after their breakthrough 2017, the Seahawks still have Russell Wilson and the Cardinals were 8-8 last year and get David Johnson back. It’s still the Rams’ division to lose, but it could be a better race than we think.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

The Eagles are defending Super Bowl champions, but they might not have an easy walk to a division title. The Cowboys were 13-3 two seasons ago and should have more stability this season. The Giants will be better with Odell Beckham healthy and rookie Saquon Barkley. And the Redskins could surprise.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

This division isn’t top heavy, but it has four interesting teams. And maybe the Chargers will finally be an elite team. You can make a case for any of the four teams winning the division, if major coach or quarterback changes hit big for the Broncos, Chiefs or Raiders (though it’s getting tougher to believe in the Raiders after their unusual offseason).

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

Remember when the AFC South was unwatchable? The Jaguars took an enormous step forward, the Titans might be a lot better with an improved coaching staff, the Texans get Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt back and Andrew Luck returns to hopefully make the Colts competitive too.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

There might not be a better divisional race than the Packers and Vikings. Those games should be fantastic. The Lions have been competitive in recent years and all of a sudden the Bears are a big factor with a much better coaching staff and that Khalil Mack guy. This division could be good from top to bottom.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphics by Amber Matsumoto)

Last season the NFC South produced three playoff teams, and it could happen again this season. The Saints and Falcons look like Super Bowl contenders. The Panthers will be good again. The Buccaneers won’t be an easy out, especially once Jameis Winston returns. Every division game should be compelling.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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